From Boom Town to Ghost Town: Cambodian Town Empties Following Gambling Ban

Image by Alexandre Brondino
Article by : Helen Oct 19, 2020

In a previous life, the southern coastal city of Sihanoukville in Cambodia gained a great deal of attention due to its bustling gambling scene. Apart from the city being a magnet for casinos, it was the casino operator’s dream as it was an even more excellent place to create the ideal online gambling experience for consumers.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 and recent governmental amendments, Sihanoukville is no longer the gambler and gambling operator’s haven. The town faced a few issues, including the collapse of a building that was under construction, killing over 24 people, and resulting in Cambodia amending its gambling regulations and shutting down online gaming. As casinos were grappling with the unfortunate developments, the coronavirus hit and made matters even worse.

While Sihanoukville disintegrated into ashes at an unprecedented rate, the famous gambling city is on the path to becoming a ghost town as its economic affairs have been severely affected. Another casino, yet again, is moving to another location.
Carrying out a plan first announced a few months ago, Century Entertainment International Holdings, formerly Amax International Holdings, announced that it is officially closing its doors.

As part of its grand scheme to move out of Sihanoukville and close down operations, the company was expected to move from the Sunshine Bay Hotel to another hotel in the same region, but those plans were scrapped. But we widely reported, Century is packing up its gaming tables to a hotel in Dara Sakor, a new hotspot for casinos, consisting of 138 square miles on the southern coast of Cambodia, a region China controls.

The relocation, spearheaded by the Century’s CEO, Ng Man Sun, follows reports that he believes this move would benefit the company as a whole.
The new Century Entertainment International Holdings casino in Dara Sakor is set on approximately 113,300 square feet of space. The casino will feature 40 gaming tables, 55 VIP tables, and 80 slot machines. Patrons can expect delicacies from a Chinese restaurant, spa treatment, great nightlife, and a plethora of gambling amenities and refurbished operations. In assessing constructional developments and refurbishment, Century officials believe that the casino will be fully operational by the end of January 2021.

Century Entertainment International Holdings may have made the right decision to relocate to Dara Sakor. The region is everything the traveling gambler would want – a warm environment, sandy beaches, and varied amenities. The project, developed by the Chinese real estate development company, Tianjin Union Development Group, commenced construction in 2008 right after receiving the green light to begin work.

Since then, it has continued to grow, showing no signs of slowing down. Recently, plans were to put in place to install an ultra-fast rail system that would connect the region to Siam Reap and Phnom Penh. Other amenities include docks capable of harboring large cruise ships, golf courses, hotels, and more. An international airport, already constructed in the area, is expected to launch at an undisclosed date next year.

Following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s unexpected announcement in August last year that Cambodia would criminalize online gambling, 23 out of 72 casinos have shut down operations.

As a result, more than 7,000 workers have been laid off and the economy affected, according to the Ministry of Labour officials. Construction work and casino openings have also come to an abrupt halt.

It is most likely that more casinos will move out of the Cambodian town. With most casino businesses affected by the coronavirus, expanding into the town may not be as lucrative as it once was, and choosing booming regions like Dara Sakor and Phnom Penh seems like the better alternatives.


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